Monday, September 21, 2009

Just Like Old Times in Nagoya

I've been spending a lot of time recently back in Tokyo (I lived there for more than 4 years, but that was a long time ago) and am really enjoying two parts: 1. seeing old friends, 2. eating. There are some things that it really is impossible to get outside of Japan But there are some things that it's tough even to find in Japan - regional specialties.

I love eel - unadon is one of my favoritie dishes, but somehow it just doesn't taste as good in the US. I don't know what it is. So, I do always try to have it when I'm there. This time, for some reason I got in my head a very distant memory of a meal on a rainy inght in Nagoya. We had had eel, but it was eel three ways - a Nagoya specialty (this was a long time ago, but I think it may have been at the place where this specialty originated). I never had the style again. For some reason, the first trip I had to Tokyo in August, I thought of it again - but there was no chance to go to Nagoya, and I didn't remember the name (or anything else) of the restaurant anyway. One night, I was going out with my friend E for dinner and was talking to one of my co-workers about ideas. After I confirmed a different restaurant with him, she came up with another suggestion - what about Hitsumabushi?

And, unbelievably, there it was - the dish that had until then existed as an almost dream-like memory. It was real. And so, she and I made plans for dinner on our next trip. And Ginza is much closer than Nagoya.

There were four of us and we all got the Hitsumabushi set.

All it is really is unadon that you eat three different ways, but that does make it better - at least I think so. So the plan is that you first eat about one-third of the eel just normally (i.e., a little eel and a little rice). The second third is put (with rice) in the small empty white bowl with some wasabi and onions - and mixed up (this is my favorite of the three ways). The final third repeats the second third mixture but adds soup broth to make a chawamushi kind of thing (you're supposed to add nori, but I find that it overwhelms the other flavors).

It's simple and it's good. And a little fun.